The setting is a familiar one to Krys Barnes.
Since he first put on a helmet and shoulder pads at age eight, Barnes spent countless nights lying awake in the bedroom of his childhood home in Bakersfield, dreams of playing in the NFL flashing rapidly through his head.
Years later, circumstances seem very similar. Now a graduate of UCLA, Barnes has returned home, riding out the coronavirus scare with his parents Keith and Karen. Back in his childhood bedroom, he still has the occasional restless night, his desire to play professional football remaining as strong as ever.
But the fantasy has a much different feel this time around.
As he got older, Barnes put his athletic ambitions into action, developing into a dominant inside linebacker at Liberty High School. A great prep career led to a solid run of high-level college ball, as Barnes went on to become a three-year starting linebacker at UCLA.
Now, Barnes may be less than a week from fulfilling his ultimate dream, as he hopes to hear his named called during the NFL Draft, set to take place on April 23-25.
Always confident he'd get to this point, Barnes says it's still surreal to think that in mere days, he'll likely get a shot to prove he belongs alongside the best players in the world.
"To be at this point right now where it’s right in front of my face, it’s not shocking, but it’s a weird feeling," he said. "It’s kind of something you’ve got to suppress and kind of push to the side and be able to stay in the moment. And once it’s all over, it’s going to be a feeling of relief and saying ‘Ok you made it.’ I don’t feel like I’ve made it yet.”
Actually making it onto a roster this fall will provide a whole new challenge for Barnes, who has a serious fight in front of him.
Despite finishing his college career strong, recording 159 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions in his final two years with the Bruins, he's been called "average across the board" by some in the scouting community, who project him as either a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
And unfortunately, a challenging offseason has given him limited opportunities to improve his draft stock.
After not being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Barnes hoped to win over skeptics at UCLA's Pro Day in March. But by then, the COVID-19 outbreak had become a global pandemic, forcing the event to be canceled.
Though he did lose out on a big opportunity, Barnes saw the cancelation as a minor setback, and he quickly worked to find alternative routes to prove his value.
"It was disappointing because that was sort of my last chance to get in front of those scouts to show (I can do) the things they put out as a negative against me," he said. "To not be able to do that sort of hurt, but it's just extra motivation to get my numbers better and get myself prepared to produce for any team that’s willing to extend an offer to be part of their organization.”
One route Barnes took was hosting a "virtual Pro Day" where he and his agent sent footage of him participating in various drills (40-yard dash, bench press, 3-cone drill, etc.), to scouts as "sort of one last shot to let them see some of the things they want to see."
He's also had help from a close friend who many expect will have his name called on the draft's opening night.
Jordan Love, a highly rated quarterback prospect who graduated from Liberty with Barnes in 2016, is also back in Bakersfield, where the pair is working out together on a daily basis.
Aside from trying to keep in physical shape, Barnes and Love are also spending their time going over various schemes, hoping to better understand how to decipher the more complex aspects of the professional game.
"It's pretty cool being able to see him and being able to hear what he talks about from his interviews or pick his brain to figure out how knowledgeable we are," Barnes said. "We're doing everything we can to make sure we're pushing each other, preparing for any opportunity that's up ahead."
Praising his drive to work on all aspects of his game, Bryan Nixon, who coached Barnes at Liberty, says such dedication will make him an asset to any team willing to take a chance on him.
"He has all the intangibles," Nixon said. "He has the size, he has the speed and he has a great football IQ. Those things correlated together make him a pretty good prospect for the NFL. Now he's going to have to prove himself when he gets an opportunity."
Though he won't give a specific number, Barnes says he's had daily conversations with several interested teams.
While hoping to make it as a linebacker, Barnes, who played on kick, punt and return units as a college freshman, says he'd happily contribute to special teams units if it improved his chances of making a roster.
With a nerve-wracking three days ahead of him, it seems fitting that Barnes, who plans to watch the draft with his mom, dad and sister Koryssa, will be in his childhood home as he eagerly awaits receiving a phone call he's been waiting for since age eight.
But after the call comes, a new kind of restlessness is likely to come over him when he retires to his room that night, his lifelong dream having officially become a reality.
"To see everything come to fruition now would be a blessing from God," he said. "I'm ready to work to get better to contribute to any team any way I can. This is my dream and I'll do anything I'm asked just to compete at the highest level."